William Herrmann Shape

William Shape was born on this day, March 1, 1867 in Milwaukee to a hard working Wisconsin family. His mother and father were from Germany and his father ran a beer bottling plant. The middle child of a brood of 8, he was well schooled and had traveled widely in Europe before he left his wife and two children to seek even greater wealth in the Klondike.

His journal was discovered in a California flea market nearly a hundred years after the Klondike gold rush. The journal and photographs give a very human dimension to the journey undertaken by vast hordes of prospectors who headed north in the gold rush. Shape recorded the daily hardships and dangers as well as the sights and smells of mining camps, the grind of overland treks, and the personal quirks of the people he encountered.
He went over the Chilkoot and down the Yukon River, prospecting up the Stewart River in 1898, followed by his exit trip out over the Dalton Trail in August and September. Though poorer monetarily for his experience, Shape came out healthy, 26 pounds heavier, and stated that he would gladly make the trip again, provided next time he could turn a profit. He must have returned to Milwaukee and lived out his life there. (His father’s company of Voechting, Shape & Co was incorporated into Schlitz Beer in 1885 or so.)

Fritz Gansneder’s Gambrinus Brewery

Fritz, or Anton Frederick Gansneder was probably born in Oberellenbach, Bavaria. His father Jacob immigrated from Germany with his 12 kids in the early 1880’s. The importance of this is that the family brought their knowledge of growing grain and producing cheese, sausage and beer to the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area. Following the surge of German immigration America benefited from the traditional methods of brewing good ales. Certainly Skagway benefited from Fred’s contribution: the Beer by the Quart Saloon in 1898. Fred and Frank moved to Portland around 1896 and established businesses there. Fred came to Skagway briefly to run his saloon and then probably went back to Washington. Here’s a tip of the hat and a clank of a mug to Fritz!

Gold Rush Grub: From Turpentine STew to Hoochinoo by Ann Chandonnet page 207; the Mascot Saloon by Spude p. 70 (misspelled as Gausnider).

William J. Blackwell

William J. Blackwell was born in 1843 in New Jersey. He married Adelaide M. Blood in 1883 in California and owned bottling and brewing companies in Seattle and Slocan, British Columbia before he came to Skagway in 1898. Here he started the B&B Bottling company with Mr. S.E. Beazley. He moved on probably to Nome where he was a member of the Eagles until 1915. He was also a member of the Arctic Brotherhood from 1898 to 1902 in Skagway. One account says he died in Alaska on this day, October 5, 1922. Washington state census records show him in a Sedro Wooley mental institution in 1930 and that he died there in May 1930. Not sure which is correct, but nevertheless he did have a business here on 5th Avenue until 1907. He manufactured and bottled soda water, sarsaparilla, ginger ale, champagne cider, sarsaparilla and iron, as well as all kinds of mineral waters with syrup.

Washington state records; business directories; 1900 census; Daily Alaskan 1900.